Randolph Plans New Water Plant

Randolph — The town will be getting a new wasterwater treatment plant to replace its aging facility along the White River, thanks to a $7.6 million federal grant and loan awarded this week.

The money will come from the Rural Development arm of the federal Department of Agriculture, which announced more than $145 million in loans and grants on Monday to fund water quality projects nationwide.

“At USDA, we believe it is critical that communities across the country have reliable, clean and safe water,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

Of the funds appropriated to Randolph, $5 million will come in the form of loans and the remaining $2.6 million will be awarded as a federal grant, according the USDA. A grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid.

A total of 43 water and wastewater projects in 32 states were awarded loans, grants or both. Randolph was the only town in Vermont to receive money; no towns in New Hampshire received any.

Randolph Town Engineer Mardee Sanchez said that an entire new facility will be built, except for a small existing control building. The USDA’s grant-loan mix will fully cover the cost of the town’s project, including all construction, design and engineering, she said.

“We were hoping for a little bit more grant, but things being what they are in the federal government, the monies just aren’t available,” Sanchez said.

However, the loan comes with a low interest rate, something town officials are excited about, she said. If the funding didn’t come through, the town had the authority to borrow up to $10.5 million via a bond issue passed by Town Meeting voters several years ago. Alternatively, the town was on a Vermont revolving loan fund list for $4 million, she said.

Even if the federal funding didn’t come through, Sanchez said she would have recommended work be done soon on the plant, which was built in 1969 with a 30-year maximum life expectancy. The last large-scale updates made to the plant were done about 10 years after it was built, she said.

Last November, a plant malfunction allowed partially treated sewage to flow into the White River. Though it was ultimately determined that the sewage did not pose health risks, Sanchez said at the time that the plant’s mishap was a symptom of its age.

The new plant will be upgraded to carry out all waste water treatment processes in a single tank, as opposed to the current system, in which wastewater is treated in multiple tanks.

Tom Doty, of DuBois & King, the engineering firm on the project, told WCAX-TV that the new plant will also be equipped to remove nitrogen from the wastewater, thereby helping to clean up the water supply as far south as the Long Island Sound.

“The process is easier to control,” Sanchez said. “In a way, it provides better treatment, as well. And it’s much more cost effective.”

She said she expects construction to start as early as late summer, and last for 15 to 18 months.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.